A top architecture award for the husband-and-wife team of Robert Venturi ’47 *50 and Denise Scott Brown has provided overdue acclaim for Scott Brown and a statement on gender equity in the profession. The American Institute of Architects gave its 2016 Gold Medal to the pair for inspiring a generation of architects through their scholarly writings and postmodern designs.
The prize comes two and a half years after Caroline James ’05 and Arielle Assouline-Lichten, then architecture students at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, posted an online petition to convince the judges of another prestigious architecture award — the Pritzker — to retroactively recognize Scott Brown, Venturi’s partner in the firm Venturi, Scott Brown, and Associates. Scott Brown was excluded from Venturi’s 1991 Pritzker Prize. The petition quickly garnered thousands of signatures, including Venturi’s. “Denise Scott Brown is my inspiring and equal partner,” he declared on the petition’s website.
In June 2013, the Pritzker committee declined to retroactively recognize Scott Brown. But the AIA changed its bylaws that year, opening its award process to allow nominations for a single architect or pair of collaborating architects who produced a singular body of work. The couple is the first duo to win AIA’s top honor, and Scott Brown is the first living woman to receive the award.
“Leaping for joy!” James posted on her Twitter account when the AIA honor was announced.
Venturi and Scott Brown’s notable works include the Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery in London, Franklin Court at the Independence Historic National Park in Philadelphia, and more than 70 academic projects around the country, including Princeton’s Wu Hall, the Lewis Thomas Laboratory, and the Frist Campus Center.